Kelly Atkins sits at her kitchen table with her iPad in front of her, facing her partner, Malcolm Gets, as they run through their duet scenes.
Atkins will play Florence Foster Jenkins, an eccentric socialite and notorious soprano, and Gets will be Cosme McMoon, Jenkin’s personal pianist and composer, in the upcoming play “Souvenir” at The Hippodrome Theatre—its first completely online production.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ June 3 order moved Florida into Phase 2 of reopening, allowing restaurants, bars, theaters and other non-essential businesses to reopen at half capacity while limiting gatherings to less than 50 people. However, the performing arts have found different ways to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic even before their doors were allowed to open again.
The Hippodrome Theatre, located at 25 SE Second Place, announced June 22 in a press release that it would slowly transition to a full opening for the safety of artists and audiences.
Souvenir, a new, remotely produced show and online production, will open in July, said Stephanie Lynge, the theater’s artistic director. The show will be filmed at the actors’ homes but will be complete with sound effects and lighting.
Mainstage shows are currently paused right now as the Actor’s Equity Association, a national guild protecting the rights and pay of professional actors, has banned all in-person performances for safety of the actors, Lynge said. The theater has a media contract with the association, so it’s able to legally create a show completely remotely.
“It's currently too dangerous for actors to be shouting, singing, kissing, touching, in the same space,” she said. “But we are thrilled to be putting on Souvenir, a hysterical comedy.”
Though the Hippodrome is closed, the theater is still embodying its season theme: Remember and Reimagine. With the help from Wild Spaces, Public Places grant, the theater added large TV screens and fixed the floors in the lobby. Shows for the future are also planned with hybrid online viewing options in mind.
Lynge said she hopes the mainstage will reopen in late August or early September.
The theater’s summer camps have also reopened, with groups limited to 10 campers and a final outdoor performance planned at the Cade Museum, said Julia Campitelli, the theater’s marketing coordinator. Attendees will be required to wear masks and respect social distancing.
“Everybody is dying to experience storytelling together again, and part of the joy of it is all of the energy in the theater,” Lynge said.
High Dive, a concert venue located at 210 SW Second Ave., originally planned to reopen July 3 after nearly four months of being closed, said Mat Poe, High Dive’s social media manager.
However, Poe said he’s nervous about reopening. He’s unsure if it will be possible after Florida ordered bars to stop selling alcohol June 26.
With funds running low, the venue has relied on serving its traditional take-out pizza and selling venue themed t-shirts as well as online streaming and concerts to benefit employees and sustaining the venue, Poe said. High Dive also opened a GoFundMe in April to support its staff and reopening, but it has only reached a third of the $10,000 goal.
Though the extra services helped in the beginning, Poe said they aren’t enough to keep their business afloat long term.
“Ninety percent of the money we bring in goes to paying our artists and expenses, so there is a really small margin for us to make money,” he said. “There are thousands of streams of music per day—most of which are free—and it is hard to expect people to pay for that right now.”
Like other performing arts venues, COVID-19 makes it difficult to reopen and thrive like in the past. With a seemingly grim Fall season ahead, Poe said venues like High Dive may face permanent closures.
Pofahl Dance Studio, located at 1325 NW Second St., closed its doors for the first time in its 64 year history in April, said Kim Tuttle, the studio’s co-founder. It reopened June 1 with classes now limited to 10 students.
Tuttle said the studio has communicated with a local medical professional to plan reopening. With Dr. Anthony Mancuso’s advice, the studio has been able to make classes socially distanced at the ballet bar to maintain a safe environment for all students.
The studio’s recital was postponed in May due to COVID-19, she said. Dancers will perform at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in July—without a general audience. The performance will be livestreamed for families.
While closed, Pofahl Studio offered online classes through Zoom for dancers to practice from the safety of their own homes, she said. After nearly two-and-a-half months of closing, practicing in person again has made a difference for students, families and teachers.
Kelly Christie was once a dancer at Pofahl’s. Now, her 15-year-old daughter has trained at the studio for 12 years.
“There is definitely a great community here at Pofahl’s,” Christie said. “The people there really are your family, and it's great to be back.”
Returning to the studio has brought a sense of normality back to the dancers, such as Christie’s daughter.
“It is just like any hobby, and if you are a dancer, you need it for your spirit,” Tuttle said. “You can study online, but dancing together makes you a better person, makes your spirit come alive.”
Katie Delk contributed to this report.
Contact Serra at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @serrasowers.
Katie Delk is a sophomore with a journalism major and an anthropology minor. For the Avenue, she writes about music, culture and the environment. When she is not writing, she is outside with the trees, reading a fantasy book or listening to Beach House.